Jeff Probst Talks ‘Survivor’s’ Infamous Jonny Fairplay

'Survivor' contestant Jonny Fairplay attends the 'Survivor: Micronesia' finale

Getty 'Survivor' contestant Jonny Fairplay attends the 'Survivor: Micronesia' finale

In an interview with the Television Academy Foundation, “Survivor” host Jeff Probst was asked about a couple of notorious “Survivor” castaways. He spoke at length about Jonny “Fairplay” Dalton, including revealing a piece of information about the famous “dead grandma” lie that we had never heard before — and it is actually kind of hilarious.


‘Survivor’ Called Fairplay’s Family to Offer Their Condolences… And the Dead Grandma Answered the Phone

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So, in case you have forgotten — back during “Survivor: Pearl Islands,” Jonny “Fairplay” Dalton came in with a plan for if he made it to the loved ones visit reward. He was going to act like he was expecting his grandma, but his friend would come out and tell him that his grandma died.

Now, it feels a little hard to believe that production wasn’t aware of this on some level. But perhaps Probst wasn’t aware of it because he wasn’t an executive producer on the show at that point? Either way, Probst said they all completely fell for the lie right along with the fellow castaways.

“I believed it! I’m sitting over there and I’m going, ‘Oh, he’s so unlikeable, but it’s his grandma! That’s just really sad, I feel for him,” said Probst, adding, “We go back to basecamp to call his family and give our condolences, and the grandma answers. That’s when we figured it out.”

That’s right. Dead grandma answered the phone. That is kind of amazing.


Probst Did Give Credit Where Credit Is Due — Fairplay Was a Great Character on the Show

But Probst said that Fairplay was great for the show.

“Jonny Fairplay was great. He came at the right time, he had the right charisma to pull off something that was so small but just really connected. He told a lie about this dead grandma … he got sympathy and it helped him in the game, but bigger than the game, it was, ‘Oh my god, people will do that! They will lie about a dead grandma, I never thought about that!'” said Probst.

Probst said a similar thing in an interview with “Entertainment Weekly,” telling the magazine, “It was actually fun to work with Fairplay on the show because he’s a producer’s dream. When he shows up drunk or flips somebody off, he’s bringing you gold every time. I wish we had a Jonny Fairplay every season.”

But he also said that Fairplay is banned from future “Survivor” events because of how he behaved at the “Vanuatu” finale.

“Personally, however, he’s an absolute jacka** whose actions at the Vanuatu finale after-party pissed me off so much that he’s banned from any event that I’m at from now on. I’m done with Jonny Fairplay,” said Probst at the time.

The event Probst is speaking of was when Fairplay got into a verbal altercation with Probst’s brother at the “Vanuatu” after-party. But even that didn’t stop the show from bringing Fairplay back. Probst revealed in a separate interview with “Entertainment Weekly” that he was overruled on having Fairplay in the “Micronesia: Fans vs. Favorites” cast.

“My first vote was we don’t need him,” said Probst. “Send him home. Make a point that there is a level of participant that we don’t need on this show. CBS said, ‘That’s interesting, Jeff — you can leave now.’ So my vote doesn’t count for anything.”

In the Television Academy interview, it sounded like Probst had made peace with Fairplay’s antics. His only criticism of Fairplay was that Probst doesn’t think Fairplay managed his brand well.

“He became too inexpensive and too easily got. He could’ve branded that, he could’ve really made something into that,” said Probst.

In his post-“Survivor” life, Fairplay appeared on “Family Feud,” “Celebrity Fear Factor,” Total Nonstop Action wrestling, “Reality Obsessed” and several other reality TV shows. He was also famously involved in an altercation with Danny Bonaduce at the FOX Reality Really Awards in 2007.

In late 2020, Fairplay and his mother Patsy were arrested on larceny charges involving some alleged theft from his Grandma Jean (the “dead grandma”), but the case was later dismissed due to insufficient evidence.

Fairplay currently hosts the “Survivor NSFW” podcast and is also a father to two girls who frequently make appearances on his Instagram — Piper, 13, and Madilyn, almost 4.

“Survivor” is back in production now. If the pattern holds, it should be premiering its 41st season the third or fourth week of September 2021.

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